’08 Advent Calendar, Day 25

Merry Christmas to those of you who observe it, and thanks to everyone for stopping by this month. Gil and I are spending the week in Louisiana with my family, so posting will be light until we return.

Stay warm!

’08 Advent Calendar, Day 2

Apples are a particular favorite of mine this time of year. Varieties range from sweet to tart, they can be used for snacking out of hand, baking, mashing, or even braising, and they pair equally well with sweet or savory ingredients.

They’re extra-delicious in caramelized apple bread pudding, too. What’s not to love?

For the 2007 Advent Calendar, click here.

recipe after the jump

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’08 Advent Calendar, Day 1

Welcome to the 2nd annual Minimally Invasive Advent Calendar! Like last year, I’ll be bringing you a daily photo entry with related recipe until Christmas.

To start things off, we’ve got what might just be my new favorite cookie of the season — chocolate crinkles. I’ve seen them everywhere, but somehow managed to resist their charms until now. Rich and deeply chocolatey, they’re more like bite-sized brownies than cookies (especially when served warm from the oven), which earns them extra points in my book.

For the 2007 Advent Calendar, click here.

recipe after the jump

Continue reading “’08 Advent Calendar, Day 1”

…that’s good enough for me

We finally gave in to temptation this weekend and made those chocolate chip cookies. Oh, don’t play coy with me — you know the ones. They’ve been everywhere since the NY Times article ran in July, but we’ve somehow managed to avoid making them until now. This, as it turns out, was a very wise decision, for these cookies are not kind to the waistline.

The ne plus ultra of chocolate chip cookies, they live up to the hype and then some, though I’m not sure if resting the dough mattered quite as much as the sheer size of these delicious monsters. I mean, they weighed in at nearly a quarter pound apiece. When you have that much goodness going on, you get the best of all possible worlds in one cookie — crispy edges and soft, pillowy centers shot through with large hunks of chocolate.

But the addition of sea salt (coarse grind) elevated the whole recipe to something otherwordly. I even added extra to later batches because I wanted a bit of salty crunch with every single bite.

I hate to run, but I really need to sample another cookie, just for quality control purposes. I wouldn’t want my co-workers to experience anything less than the best, after all.

Recipe here.

Apple crisp, improved! Whatchu say?

Soooo, where were we, anyway? Oh, right — I went into an end-of-the-summer-I-never-got-to-enjoy funk, and took to tending my vapors on the chaise in diaphanous dresses, as any proper Southern Woman should. OK, not really, but I love the ridiculous picture that paints. (“Gil, do be a dear and bring me a glass of water with just one ice cube — shaved — and a paper-thin slice of lemon. And no blood on the citrus this time, if you don’t mind tooooo terribly?”) As luck would have it, the work schedule that’s been eating me alive is going to get So Much Better soon that I started to come out of my funk last weekend and snapped a few pictures of the goings-on in my kitchen.

And what was going on, my friends, was making a little something called apple crisp. Maybe you’ve heard of it? Seven years ago I hit upon the nearly-perfect recipe for this dessert, made minor modifications, and that was that. It’s something Gil requests almost weekly during fall and winter months, so I’d say it’s one of the few clear winners ever to come from our kitchen.

Given the general righteousness of the recipe, it’s maybe a little surprising that I made more changes to it last week. “Why would you do such a thing?” you ask. I’ll let you in on a little secret here, because it’s just the two of us … I’m a little lazy. Quelle surprise! See, Gil and I were planning to take Rufus up to Warwick last weekend for Apple Fest (Greyhound Friends of NJ had a booth there) and I thought it’d be fun to enter an apple pie in the contest. I counted on nothing short of last place, but started dreaming of recipes anyway.

And then my thoughts quickly turned to meeting my arch-nemesis, Pie Dough, and procrastination set in.

Oh, look! A cute bedgraggled doggie!

See what I mean? All about the procrastination.

So I never did get around to baking that pie, is what I’m saying, though I did manage to make a big pot of dulce de leche for the filling. With no real uses for for the dulce de leche (apart from eating it by the spoonful), I brought half of it to work for the production department. I still had a ton left, so I rejiggered my old favorite apple crisp recipe. (I know you’re thinking you could get through ANY amount of dulce de leche without complaining, and maybe you’re right, but my Beavis impression wore thin after a few hours so clearly something had to be done.)

It might not look like much, but c’mon…dollops of creamy dulce de leche over cinnamon-spiked apples. What could be better?

Because I tampered with the filling, the topping deserved equal attention, so I added 8 ground gingersnap cookies to the oat mixture. The ginger flavor was subtle and I’ll probably add more to the mixture if I make it again, but I was pleased with the outcome, even if it didn’t win any awards in a competition.

recipes after the jump

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OK, I give! Consider my arm twisted.

With all of the great blog posts on strawberry-rhubarb cobbler lately, there was no way I was going to be able to hold off making my own much longer; I gave in over the weekend and assembled one with some purchases from our very first local farmers’ market of the season. (For Gil’s pictures of Rufus’s day at the market, click here.)

Cobblers haven’t been featured here at all, due to a tragic tale of love and loss. When I was a teenager and thought in my teenagerly way that things last forever, I made a peach-strawberry cobbler of such great beauty that my grandmother raved about it. So what did I do? Continue to make cobblers with the rest of the summer’s bounty, thereby committing the recipe to memory? Share the recipe with someone who would’ve written it down for safe-keeping? No, I planned to make it again someday, but promptly lost the recipe (in my teenagerly way). While mourning that loss over the years, I fell hard for apple crisp and gave my heart to any number of bread puddings, which (mostly) pushed all thoughts of other fruit desserts out of my mind. Oh sure, the faint whiff of a peach could send me back, wishing I’d been more careful, pining ever so slightly for that magical soft-yet-crunchy biscuity topping. But mostly, I was happy to have the other options.

But as luck would have it, cobbler recipes are all pretty simple and similar, so I decided to take the plunge this weekend. The base is a mixture of fruit, sugar, and some kind of thickener, depending on the juiciness of the fruit.

Crispy, tart rhubarb

Juicy, sweet strawberries

Instead of using citrus zest in the fruit, I added balsamic vinegar to bring out the flavor of the strawberries and add a little complexity to the dessert.

Macerate, macerate, macerate

I made a couple of individual desserts, too. Cute, and the small portions kept us from devouring the whole dessert in one sitting.

The real difference between cobbler recipes seems to be in the topping. Both of the ones I referenced this weekend praised their cobbler toppings as crispy and just sweet enough, so I knew I was on the right path to finding my lost love.

At least this time, I’ve saved the recipe. And you’re welcome to it.

recipe after the jump

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